A few years ago, I turned my sites to painting the house over Labor Day weekend. Sure, there are tons of us who steal away for the last dibs on summer over the Labor Day weekend, but there are also a bunch of us who are trying to eek out those house projects that have been put off too long.
Painting my house is no small project – at all. My house has always been an ongoing project. A Victorian three story built in 1894 does not like paint, it rejects paint as if it were a foreign toxin. I have done everything possible to convince my house to play nice and let my efforts succeed. But it doesn’t. I can do all the prep I want and paint with the most expensive paint, and the next year this house will push the paint right back off. Even though I used to paint in college, and I really don’t mind the idea of painting, I hate, hate the idea of giving even more of my time, money, and energy to putting even more make-up on this century-old painted lady. Scaffolding, long ladders, tools, wasp nests… frankly it sucks. I peel the rejected paint like sheets of chocolate off of an ice cream bar toiling, brushing, cleaning – then finally dipping into the pale and starting what I realize is a lot like a change initiative. And the analogy makes a lot of sense as to why change ideas do, don’t, or won’t work.
But, the process of painting a house can give great insight into making changes last.
Very few people like to paint: introducing a new idea challenges the status quo. The very idea of painting means hard, sucky work; and it has to be done right; or it won’t work, stick, or last. People don’t like climbing up and down ladders, and they certainly don’t like dealing with the wasp nest that threatens them. It is much easier to simply put it off or even paint over the issue.
The condition of the wood is the condition of the leadership: If your organization is old in its thinking its the same as my old, oxidized, cedar siding. I either have to replace it, or convince it to change to accept this new idea and that takes some serious scrapping, burning off some of the ideas that have been there for over a century can prevent the new idea from success. Without that happening, it doesn’t matter what I put up on that wall, it will never work. How many ideas are put up where leadership is either oxidized, out of touch, out of sync with the need for innovation or ideation? Just because I have an 1894 house, does not mean that I should have peeling paint, or rotted infrastructure.
The higher you have to go on the ladder, the more you can freak out: Reaching to senior leadership can be unnerving for anyone, even the most seasoned painter has to have respect for the heights and the idea of reaching too far. Senior leadership has to give them the confidence to reach, to scrape, to reveal areas that need to be addressed.
Realize that no one likes to really do this and that distractions are the enemy: every time I climbed down, I was tempted to check in on the Husker season opener on TV, and if I did, I knew I would be tempted to put this idea off for another afternoon. Don’t.
The new color needs to be a good color: I can spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on painting the house; but if I pick an ugly color, why bother? Bad ideas are like bad paint color. Some people are better at picking paint color than others. Some are more gifted at color combination, others are better painters than colorists. Sample it. Find another house that has tried the paint combination; or at least start on a small, back side of the house before you go all-out. Committing to 20 gallons of a bad idea is sure to kill the buy-in the next time you have to paint because you did such a bad job this time. Ask the ones who are good at color, andshow the idea, the vision of the house to the family. Let them see it and ask if they like the color.
They’ll be more inclined to help pick up a brush.
Where do your ideas “peel”?
Need help in realizing if it’s the paint, the siding or the process? Let’s have a cup and discuss.